The benefits of TalkTalk’s natural speech phone self-service system and how do your customers picture your IVR?

The second session I caught at the  Professional Planning Forum conference was about a natural language IVR from one of our customers TalkTalk. Using the new system callers can simply say what their query is about and, with sophisticated speech recognition magic, the system directs their call to where it needs to go.

Brighton 2

More brilliant street art in Brighton. Is this how callers picture your IVR? Time for a persona makeover.The new system saw TalkTalk cut average customer self-service time by 26 seconds, whilst callers could be routed to any one of 300 endpoints. In addition self-service use went up by 28% and routing accuracy rose to reduce transfers by 16%. Overall £3 million in costs were saved and it seems that there’s plenty of potential for more savings as well. Moving away from existing touch-tone IVR was a bold move that required a considerable investment in new technology as well as scripts and a voice that was chosen to match the application and brand. It was quite a contrast to Three’s ‘making the most of what you’ve got approach’ that I covered in my previous blog. 
Both projects are very successful and show the scale of what can be achieved, on any budget, if there’s a real desire to make things better.

The evening before the TalkTalk presentation I came across this superb piece of street art whilst walking into town with friends to have dinner. At the time someone commented that it’s actually a depiction of an IVR belonging to a well known government office as, to put it kindly, the voice they’d selected was somewhat unusual. With some bitterness they also pointed out the small eyeballs in cages saying that they’re probably those of callers who became lost within the massive labyrinth of menus and options designed to trap, but not serve, customers.

We’re all anthropomorphs at heart and the ‘persona’ of the government office’s IVR clearly isn’t a good one. In the scramble to buy technology, program it and get it working, it’s easy to forget about something as simple as how your IVR comes across. But, it’s very important to us humans as it’s one of the things we use to discern the intent of whatever we are communicating with.

Listen carefully to the language and voice of your IVR and picture it as a person. Are they likeable? What social class are they? How old are they? Are they masculine or feminine? What’s their ethnicity? And, are these traits (and others) well matched to your brand, audience and the function of your IVR?

Whether you like it or not your IVR is going to have a persona. You may as well shape it and make it work for you.

Abbie Mandry